How Dental Health Affects Your Overall Health

Man brushing his teeth
How well you take care of your teeth and gums can affect your overall health.

Good oral hygiene is important

Your mouth can offer clues about your overall health. With daily brushing and flossing you can help keep bacteria in your mouth under control. But poor oral hygiene can cause bacteria to increase which may lead to gum disease. The bacteria found in gum disease can spread to your heart which can increase your risk for heart disease and stroke. In addition, if certain bacteria in your mouth gets into your lungs, it may cause pneumonia or other respiratory illnesses.

Practicing good oral hygiene and seeing your dentist for regular cleanings are important parts of your overall health. A cleaning helps remove plaque that you weren’t able to remove during brushing. Regular cleanings also make it easier for your dentist to spot more serious problems that may need to be addressed.

What is good oral hygiene?

Oral hygiene is a simple way to improve your overall health:

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day using fluoride toothpaste.
  • Floss daily
  • Eat healthy
  • See your dentist for checkups and cleanings
  • Contact your dentist about any oral health problems
  • Replace your toothbrush every three to four months or earlier if bristles are frayed.

CarePartners of Connecticut HMO and PPO plan members can use their OTC benefit to purchase floss, toothpaste, toothbrushes and more. Get more details on using the OTC benefit.

Conditions to watch for

Gum disease

When plaque builds up along your gum line, gum disease can make itself at home. The plaque can lead to infections that affect the gum and bone that hold your teeth in place.

Symptoms of gum disease:

  • Tender and swollen gums
  • Gums that bleed easily during or after brushing and flossing
  • Bad breath
  • Shrinking gums
  • Sensitive teeth

Failing to address these symptoms can lead to more serious conditions such as infection, tooth decay, tooth loss, and even heart disease. To prevent gum disease, control plaque by brushing and flossing daily, seeing your dentist for regular cleanings and using and antibacterial mouth wash.

Dry mouth

When you don’t make enough saliva, your mouth gets dry and uncomfortable. The condition known as dry mouth can be the result of dehydration, a side effect of certain medications, caused by smoking or chewing tobacco, or a side effect of certain medical conditions such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, or  rheumatoid arthritis.  Dry mouth can raise your risk of gum diseases, tooth decay, and mouth infections.

If you think your dry mouth is caused by a medication you are taking, talk to your doctor to see if the dose can be adjusted or if switching to a different drug is possible. In addition, to help improve saliva flow:

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Brush with a fluoride toothpaste, use a fluoride rinse and see your dentist regularly
  • Chew sugar-free gum or suck on sugar-free candy with xylitol (a sugar-free sweetener that tastes like sugar has fewer calories and doesn’t raise blood sugar levels)
  • Breathe through your nose not your mouth as much as possible

CarePartners of Connecticut HMO and PPO plan members can use their OTC benefit to purchase dry mouth rinse, and more. Get more details on using the OTC benefit.

Oral cancer

Oral cancer appears as a growth or sore in the mouth that doesn’t go away.  The most common symptoms of oral cancer include:

  • Swellings, thickenings, lumps, rough spots, crusts, or eroded areas on the lips, gums, or other areas inside the mouth
  • Velvety white, red, or speckled (white and red) patches in the mouth
  • Unexplained bleeding in the mouth
  • Unexplained numbness, loss of feeling, or pain/tenderness in any area of the face, mouth, or neck

Smoking, chewing tobacco, excessive alcohol consumption, excessive sun exposure, and family history are the most common causes of oral cancer, but everyone should check for signs regularly.

How to check your mouth

At a routine cleaning your dentist will generally do an oral cancer check, but it is a good idea to do a self-exam once a month.

Use a bright light and a mirror to conduct your exam:

  • View and feel your lips and the front of your gums.
  • Tilt your head back to view and feel the roof of your mouth.
  • Pull your checks out to see the inside of your mouth, the lining of your cheeks, and the back gums.
  • Stick out your tongue and look at the surface
  • Examine the floor of your mouth and the back of your throat.
  • Feel for lumps or enlarged lymph nodes in both sides of your neck and under your lower jaw.

If you notice any changes in the appearance of your mouth or any of the signs and symptoms mentioned above, call your dentist's office to discuss next steps.

Dental coverage worth smiling about

CarePartners of Connecticut HMO and PPO plan members have built-in dental coverage* to help provide the dental care you need to stay healthy:

  • Up to $1,500 dental benefit (one of the best in Connecticut)
  • Savings on bridges, dentures, crowns, and more
  • $0 copay for preventive visits such as cleanings and X-rays on our $0 CareAdvantage Preferred (HMO) and $0 CarePartners Access (PPO) plans
  • No waiting period

See complete dental coverage details.

*The plan is administered by Dominion Dental Services, Inc., which operates under the trade name Dominion National. Benefit limits and cost shares apply. For the HMO plans, services must be performed by providers in the Dominion PPO Network. CarePartners of Connecticut PPO members may choose to receive treatment from a non-participating dentist, but may pay higher costs for services and are responsible for any cost above the Maximum Allowable Charge (MAC) charged by the non-participating dentist.